ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

Falling asleep and drowsy driving is a major problem in the United States, and the risk and dangers often lead to tragic results. An estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) report falling asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2013 drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths. In general, who are these drivers ?: they are our neighbors who do not get enough sleep; they are commercial drivers who work long shifts operating tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses; they are night shift workers; they are drivers with sleep disorders; and they are drivers who use medications that make them drowsy. Drowsiness alone is the cause of many tragic collisions in that: it makes drivers less able to pay attention to the road; it slows reaction time when  a driver needs to suddenly brake or turn; and it affects a driver’s decision making ability.

In the State of Connecticut falling asleep at the wheel is a sufficient basis for holding a driver accountable for a collision. Because sleep does not ordinarily come upon a driver without warning, and if a driver knows or should know that they are becoming sleepy they must maintain a constant vigilance to stay awake or cease driving altogether. The Connecticut courts have also ruled that falling asleep while driving can constitute recklessness.

The solution to this problem is public awareness and common sense. Because falling asleep at the wheel does not come without warning signs such as: yawning or frequently blinking; difficulty in remembering the past few miles driven; missing your exit; drifting from your lane; or hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road. If you experience any of these warning signs please pull over to rest or change drivers. We all thank you.

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